3. Tech's new prominence in the climate fight
The tech industry is playing a growing role in fighting climate change, from zero-carbon commitments to investments in startups and pushing for the use of data to encourage energy efficiency, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Why it matters: Tech leadership in helping to address climate change — and reckon with its role in contributing to it — could be transformative, given the industry's wealth and power.
Driving the news: Amazon and Shopify revealed the first recipients of their investment funds this week, comprising $2 billion and $5 million, respectively. Microsoft has a similar fund of $1 billion.
- CarbonCure Technologies, which makes climate-friendly concrete, announced investments this week from Amazon and Microsoft (among others). Shopify is backing the firm by buying offsets, credits of CO2 stored in the concrete made by its technology.
- Other startups receiving tech money this week include Pachama, which uses artificial intelligence to preserve forests, and TurnTide Technologies, which makes more efficient motors for a range of purposes, including HVAC and refrigerators.
"Each one has something very different to offer," Kara Hurst, Amazon's global lead on sustainability, said at a virtual Axios event Thursday. "But, there is a unifying theme that they are driving decarbonization and they have the potential to lower our carbon footprint."
But, but, but: Tech giants are under pressure from their employees and the public about their own carbon footprints, and especially their deals with oil and gas companies helping them extract more fossil fuels.
- In what is likely at least a partial acknowledgement of that pressure, Microsoft announced this week it was partnering with BP to help the oil giant cut its emissions. BP would also supply renewable energy for the tech giant.
- Google announced this week that it's aiming to run all of its data centers and corporate campuses around the world on 100% carbon-free power by 2030.
Between the lines: The amount the firms are investing is tiny compared to their bottom lines, and PR is likely a driving factor too.
Meanwhile, there's a new coalition led by Intel and Johnson Controls called the Digital Climate Alliance. It will lobby lawmakers on ensuring digital solutions are part of climate policy.
How it works: One idea proposed in a recent peer-reviewed study is for tech companies to shift digital requests like web searches to data centers in locations where excess electricity, such as from solar in the middle of the day, is otherwise wasted.